Muhammad Al-Zekri, a Muslim who is also a Bahraini anthropologist, gets it. He thinks that the ground zero mosque debate is good for America. This today in the New York Times:
‘What’s happening in America is very healthy,’ said Muhammad Al-Zekri, a Bahraini anthropologist. . .
The United States, he said, was still assimilating historical influences, including Islam, into its inaccurate self-image as a solely Judeo-Christian nation. The construction of Park51, Mr. Zekri believes, will help shape that.
‘We pray for the people of New York, for peace,’ Mr. Zekri said solemnly. ‘And if it matters, we apologize for what those people have done on 9/11.’
I like the way that Mr. Zekri disrupts the Muslim collective guilt narrative by reminding Americans that Muslims like him have never approved of what happened on 9/11. In other words, he’s an individual and Islam is not a monolith, and we should make the effort to remember that.
And so the question comes to us: is America a monolith?
In other words, is America just another Herderite-style nationalist country, grounded in ethnic and religious identity politics?
Or is America something special—an Enlightenment grounded nation committed to individualism, universal reason, and certain inalienable human rights?
The ground zero mosque debate brings identity politics up against our Jeffersonian narrative: which will be in the pole position?
Barack Obama, sworn to uphold, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States—and devoted as he so obviously is to the values of the Enlightenment—has chosen.